Running Into 2015 Full Force

Workouts this week started with a Christmas Eve morning meeting with my brother and sister. I think I had mentioned that I went with them in last week’s edition, but to be honest, I wrote it beforehand, and then things didn’t work out (haha, pun), the way I intended.

Actually, we should go back to Tuesday when I thought I was going to an exercise class with my friend Nouha. Things didn’t go as planned and we didn’t make it in time for the class, so instead, we started on the bike for twenty minutes, did twenty more on the elliptical, then headed over to the stretch room to fit in some core work. When she left, I did a quick Plyometrics circuit to round out my workout.

On Wednesday, I had a nice sister’s workout planned, but she had other things to do to get ready for that night, so we only went through a strength workout. After she left, I hopped on the treadmill to run for twenty-five minutes, then do five minutes of sprints. I was nice and sweaty and ready for a big lunch once I finished.

Thursday was my scheduled rest day, but I did fit in a walk with my mom and the dog that afternoon.

I mixed things up a bit on Friday by doing the bike we have at home for thirty minutes, and actually built up quite a sweat, before a movie with my sister. Once I got home, I changed and headed out to the gym to fit in a kettlebell strength workout before the gym closed. Still feeling energized, I did another thirty minutes on the bike at home, while reading my book. It was better than just sitting on the couch!

Though I couldn’t believe it was only two days after Christmas, the weather was sunny and in the fifties around here on Saturday, so I was thrilled to get out there for a run. I did four miles of running before walking and enjoying another two of walking. I wore a light fleece jacket, but had taken that off two miles in and was only in a short-sleeved shirt. I should have just worn a long-sleeve shirt for a nice medium, but who knew it would even be that nice!

With my new Fitbit on my wrist, I went to the gym for a barbell strength routine. To mix things up a bit, I performed what my brother deemed a “pyramid” of reps and sets, starting with 12 reps, 10, 8, 6, 4, 4, increasing the weight as I decreased the reps. It was quite effective and I was sore, in a good way, once leaving.

I was actually surprised with how few steps I fit in throughout the day that started with grocery shopping, the gym, and not sitting for much time at all. I didn’t do much cardio, but still, I thought my numbers would be way up there! I guess this is why a Fitbit will be good for me!

It was back to the daily grind on Monday with a 5:00am wake up call. Nouha and I started off with a body strength circuit before hopping on the treadmill for a run. After a string of days sleeping in, it was quite a shock to hear that alarm go off!

On Tuesday, we were both able to sign up for the cycling class, so we started our day with that. Once it finished, I still had some time, so I opted to go through a Plyometrics circuit to add some extra cardio and strength training.

To celebrate New Year’s Eve, I started my workout at the gym with a dumbbell strength routine. After pushing those muscles, I headed home for a run outside. Even though it was cold, it was nice to feel the fresh air and to not keep looking at the time slowly click by like when I’m running on the treadmill. Many layers had to be worn to get me through not feeling too cold or overly warm. Running is balanced on such precision, not too much water, but just enough; not too much to eat, but just enough; not too cold, not too warm. It is worth it though!

It’s nice to end a year the way it started and knowing that I’ve dedicated time to maintaining no healthy lifestyle, growing stronger, healthier, and happier with every step! Have a great New Years everyone. Here’s to an even better, happier, healthier, and brighter 2015 for all of us.

See you next year!

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For Exercise, Attitude Is Key

It took a few days, but it appears that I have caught up on my sleep. I felt fine throughout the day, except for my workouts where I felt weaker and drowsy. Part of this lack of motivation might stem from needing to freshen up my workouts, which is on the agenda for this weekend.

Last Thursday, I swam my fastest mile ever in just over 42-minutes. That sounds really slow, but a mile in my pool is 36 laps, back and forth equalling one. Swimming is a long process and can be boring, but I just kept going through storyline plots in my head. It also helped (time and focus) that I incorporated some sprints into my routine. It’s amazing how out of breath you can feel from swimming. I also had two kickball games, the first we won by a run and the second we lost by eight runs. I can’t say that felt spectacular but it was a fun season!

On Friday, I ran through another routine, starting with a quick barbell circuit of squat presses, bench presses, and deadliest among other moves. After, I moved on to three different kettlebell circuits. These are good because they work on both a cardio and strength level. When I get home, I went out for a quick two-mile run, anticipating that I wouldn’t have time on Saturday, before dropping some family off at the airport. It was good to get that extra workout in because it was Halloween and you better believe I indulged in some chocolate!

Saturday was a sister birthday celebration because we were born 9 days (and 3 years apart). We started with a shopping trip at Target to finalize Halloween costumes before making it in for a pretty intense Yoga class. It wasn’t an intensive workout, but it left me feeling a bit sweaty and much more alert and relaxed. I could have fallen asleep on that mat at the end (which is ironic because that’s how I slept that night and it wasn’t as easy).

Even though it was one of the meager forced trips, on Sunday, as I mentioned, I was able to go through a dumbbell circuit that included body strength moves in-between, followed by a measly 15 minutes on the Elliptical and a quick walk in the freezing cold. I didn’t feel better or worse for having gone and had I felt truly awful, I would have skipped it. However, sometimes there are just days where motivation is low, especially when weather is poor, and just the art of keeping to routine will make a huge difference to your approach.

Monday, I did my medicine ball routine. I couldn’t muster up the energy to do Burpees or work through my sets with my usual power. Sometimes, to get through certain moves that are trickier, it is good to envision yourself doing them and talking yourself up. In this case, I knew I would struggle through the rest of my workout if I did them, so I felt I was justified in skipping. It’s not as though I skipped out on an entire workout! I finished up with a 35 minute swim where I didn’t keep track of laps. My mom and I ended the night with a run/walk combination in the dark and it wasn’t that late!

On Tuesday, I did an hour of Yoga before going out for a four mile run that was a bit of a struggle, but finished strong. For me, my best mileage comes from the middle to end when I’m feeling my strongest. After all this time, it can still take my body awhile to adjust to running and not feel like it’s death. I’ve learned that if I stick through the first mile or so, I will usually get myself into a good rhythm and it won’t feel quite as burdensome. Quality music and a positive attitude will always help!

Today, I felt much stronger and revitalized, so I went through my barbell strength routine, a body strength/core combination workout, and finished up with five minutes of jump rope and five minutes of box jumps interval style. For my strength routine, I’m noticing that I am able to go up in a lot of weight. I’ve been rotating between four sets of ten and three sets of twelve, depending on the day, and they seem like the magical numbers. If I were to do lesser amount of moves in each routine, I would up my number of sets, which might be on tap for this next workout plan, in addition to more ab work and Yoga. I haven’t decided yet!

Tomorrow, I will write that post I promised about my excitement for November. Exciting things to come!

Won’t Sleep Til I’m Dead= Not Good!

In case you weren’t certain of the power of a restful night sleep, I am here to prove it to you. Last night, we were celebrating my sister’s birthday- I was Elsa, my sister and her roommates were Sesame Street characters!

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Olaf!
                        Olaf!

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Fun times means staying up late and staying over somewhere means sleeping on the floor. It wasn’t entirely uncomfortable as I piled some Yoga mats on top of each other and had plenty of blankets to burrow under, but I prefer to sleep on my side and that is not a friend to sleeping on a floor. Your shoulder needs a little give.

That, and the fact that I had two bottles full of water before bed in order to remain fully hydrated, I kept waking up throughout the night. Even the extra hour didn’t help me!

Waking up, I felt a little tired but otherwise fine. This SNOW made me want to head home and watch Netflix in bed all day, but my mom and I got ourselves together to get to the gym for an hour.

An hour is often only HALF of my workout time on a regular day. Today, it took a lot of effort to get through just that. I did one of my strength routines and was sweating more than usual, which is nice, but it also took a lot more out of me. It wasn’t one of those good, healthy, strong ass-kicking feelings either, but plain old fatigue. This is okay though occasionally. I finished up with a half-hearted go on the Elliptical because I wasn’t up for any intervals. I still got there (even though the cold, freezing, yucky weather was offering me up a nice excuse to stay home) and that is better than nothing.

I think people should get points and burn lots of calories for just getting up and moving in any way, just for showing up to the gym. Sometimes, exercise means going through the motions and counting down every second. That hasn’t been the case for me in awhile and I am blaming lack of sleep and maybe some extra Halloween fun. Either way, I got my workout in and now I can curl up under my blankets and watch excess of Gilmore Girls!

Also, a good night’s sleep will work its wonders and I’m guessing my workout tomorrow will be a lot more energized!

Working Out Can Be Fun To Do

This week, I jazzed up my workout routine a bit, had it all written out and organized, then left it at home to go to the gym. Oops! No fear! For that day, I could remember a lot of what I had planned to do, but I am also an excellent improvisor and played around with different moves. Let me tell you, my abs were both thankful and angry that this happened because they are still sore two days later!

Abs are my focus on the coming month. I have upped my plank game, doing some form of a plank every day, from the straight up forearm for a minute and a half, to a circuit of planks for smaller amounts of time, to plank jacks which are actually kind of fun- they’re jumping jacks in a plank position.

From where we last left off, last Thursday, I did a medicine ball/ball strength workout before hopping into the pool for a swim. Instead of focusing on the amount of laps, I’ve been swimming based on time to help me grow back my stamina after taking a bit of a lap break from the summer. Friday, I got in a kick-ass kettle bell workout and one of my fellow gym-goers asked me if I took a kettle bell class because she was so impressed with my moves. It’s all online waiting for you people! And it’s fun to compile your own workout and find out what you can do.

Saturday, I started my day with a wonderful Yoga practice I created on my own. I’m sure it wasn’t as mindful or zen as one might find at a Yoga class, but it worked for me! I was apparently very tense and it helped me to stretch before my nice long run later that afternoon. You know, the one where I almost had a heart attack from all of the freakish, realistic Halloween decorations.

Knowing that I had quite a lot to do on Sunday, I got up early and headed in for my workout. I did a dumbbell/body strength combination circuit where I did one move with dumbbells, one move without, and continued that pattern for about fifteen moves, then did it three more times. I was nice and sweaty after and topped it all off with a painful, but awesome treadmill sprint cardio session.

On Monday, when I left my new workout page at home, I did more work with the ball/medicine balls and focused on a lot of whole body strength moves before doing a grueling ab routine that was kind of fun. After, I hopped in the pool to get in some laps. I followed that up on Tuesday with another Yoga/Run session. I was at the track for a three-mile run and as I was finishing up, I sprinted the rest of the way and felt like I was flying. I’m not sure I’ve ever run that fast in my life.

This brings us to Wednesday, today- kind of because it’s late- when I did another awesome kettle bell workout. Kettle bells are so good because they include strength and cardio so it’s a two-for-one. I started my workout with a few barbell moves and by the end of my time, I was tired but feeling great. Later in the afternoon, I went on a fun seven mile walk with my friend Molly. The rain kept threatening, but it held off until we were both home!

Now go ahead and get moving!

Working Out Is Hard To Do- Except When It’s Not

It’s hard to come up with new posts on exercise because I do a lot of the same things over again. We’ve heard a lot about my running successes and woes, which I was discussing with my mom earlier. Both her and my dad have taken up running and they have noticed how one day you feel phenomenal, while the next day you feel awful. You just have to keep going. Obviously if the awful feeling is born from pain that is physically hurting you, then you should skip it, but otherwise, the type of exercise that makes a difference is the kind you do when you don’t feel like getting it done. Running is the most fickle form of exercise because it can be affected by water or food intake, temperature, or energy levels.

Strength training is similar but not as bad because you can do a lot of improvisation and take breaks in-between sets. When I’m not feeling my strongest but I know I have to get through a workout, I’ll focus on fewer sets and reps, working through the moves slowly and feeling how it affects my body. I notice the effects of rest days best when it comes to strength training. A day of rejuvenation helps to repair muscles and I come back feeling stronger and get through a longer, harder workout.

When I get to the gym or hit the streets, I can tell almost immediately what kind of day it will be. At my strongest, I can safely push myself, try new exercises, and go for a longer or harder routine. Then there are always the days where I’m going through the motions and counting down the seconds. When this happens, listening to music helps to focus the mind away from exertion or I will come up with story ideas that I play through my head. This will occur more frequently during my running, swimming, or other longer cardio sessions because I am doing the same thing for so long. With strength training, I move so quickly from one thing to another and do a variety of different exercises and using different equipment that I easily stave off boredom. I’m lucky because I’ve reached the point where I do genuinely enjoy working out, but I am still human and prone to having those days where even thinking of exercise makes me UGH.

Pleasure from exercise for me is born from a feeling of productivity, strength, and stress-relief. I am a natural organizer, attached to my planner, love making to-do lists, but love checking items off that list even more. Knowing that I am going to exercise and that I have one definite bullet off of my list checked off gives me a weird sense of satisfaction in the same way that I love having folded and put away my laundry, cleaned my room, or organized my desk.

When I first started my exercise plan, I knew I had one great thing in my arsenal, mind strength. There was a moment where it all clicked and I knew I could do it. That courage helped a lot when it came time to starting exercising and trying out new routines. Realizing that your body is so strong should not be surprising, but the truth is, we spend so much time out of check and focused on other things, that we don’t always allot enough energy to ourselves. I may not love doing Burpees, but I love knowing that I can. Push-ups are also a pain in the ass, but I had a deep moment of pride when I transitioned into doing them full out. Exercise is a way for me to better connect and understand my body that I have otherwise ignored. It’s similar to how you have to listen to the signals your body sends you when eat, what foods work, what doesn’t. You may not agree, especially if you despise working out, but exercise is also a gift. It’s taking the time to, as Parks and Rec declares, “treat yo self.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again 1000 times. I would not have gotten through my Fellowship without exercise. I’ve seen a lot of people cut working out from their daily plans when things get busy because it’s the obvious thing to step away from, especially if you don’t love it. Trust me, I get it. There are so many things that go into a day and not enough time if you actually want to sleep, but dedicating thirty minutes to an hour out of a day to exercise shows that you are still taking care of yourself, keeping your energy levels up, and will help you focus. I was lucky to fit my exercise in during the hour between my work day and my classes starting. Whether I had a horrible day or a great one, lifting those weights, performing those moves, or going for a run was my saving grace. I was able to let it all go (ELSA COSTUME YAY), give my mental muscles a break, and bust it out physically. It worked. It worked. It worked. My number one word of advice, fit in exercise in any capacity for any amount of time in any way that you can because it will make you stronger mentally and physically.

That being said, I can feel my body adjusting to my current exercise plan. As much as I’ve been enjoying it, I know that I have to mix things up in order to keep my body guessing. It kind of stinks sometimes that just making the effort to exercise doesn’t always get the job done, but creating a new work out plan can be exciting and up your motivation to get it done. Hopefully I’ll take the weekend to develop a new plan and share it with you next week!

I Like To Move, Move- Updated Workouts!

Writing this out, I understand that these workouts might seem intense. Keep in mind, I dedicate/have a lot of time in order to workout and I always listen to my body’s signals. This month’s workouts are great because they can be broken up into segments that people can pick and choose to their liking. I always get excited about formulating new workout plans, and these have definitely kicked my butt in a good way!

Day One:
Strength (Using Barbells)
– Rows
– Bicep Curls
– Front Deadlifts
– Snatch and Presses
– Squat Presses
– Bench Presses
– Lying Tricep Extensions
– Front Shoulder Presses
– Shoulder Raises
– Leg Press

Body Strength
– Step Ups
– Lunges
– Deep Squats
– Dips
– V Push Ups
– Leg Lifts
– Single-Leg Hip Lifts
– Sit Ups

Cardio (HIIT)
– Jump Rope
– Treadmill Sprints
– Bike Sprints
– Rower Sprints

Day Two
Strength (Using Ball and Medicine Balls)
– Burpees to Throw Downs
– Wall Throws
– Lunge Twists
– Single-Leg Deadlifts
– Squat Swings
– Rollouts
– Elevated Hip Lifts
– Hundreds
– Russian Twists
– Mermaid Raises

Body Strength
– Box Jumps
– Dips
– Rope Swings
– Leg Swings
– Jump Rope

Cardio
– Swim or Elliptical depending on time

Day Three
Strength
– Yoga

Cardio
– Run

Day Four
Strength (using cables)
– Pull Downs
– Chops
– Rows
– Tricep Extensions
– Flies
– Leg Presses

Strength (using kettle bells)
– Swings
– Goblet Squats
– Alternating Knee to Elbow Shoulder Presses
– Single-Arm Snatches
– Front Rows
– Bench Presses (on ball)

Body Strength
– Box Jumps
– Push Ups
– Mountain Climbers
– Leg Lifts
– Backwards Lunges
– Split Squats to Standing Kickbacks

Cardio (HIIT)
– Jump Rope
– Treadmill Sprints
– Bike Sprints
– Rower Sprints

Day Five

REST

Day Six
Strength (using dumbbells)
– Bench Presses
– Flies
– Hammer Curls
– Front Raises
– One-Leg Rows
– Deadlifts
– Shrugs to Lunges
– Shoulder Presses
– Tricep Extensions with Calf Raises

Strength (using barbells)
– Plie Squat Presses
– Leg Presses
– Angled Bench Presses

Body Strength
– Hanging Leg Raises
– Box Jumps
– Split Squats
– Lunge Twists
– Push Ups
– Spiderman Climbers
– Mermaid Raises
– Alternating Ankle Grabs
– Single-Leg Hip Lifts
– Russian Twists

Day Seven
Strength
– Yoga

Cardio
– Run

For sets and reps, it depends on how I’m feeling that day and how much time I have to workout. Lately, I’ve been trying to push my workouts to the next level, so I’ve varied between 4 sets of 12, 5 sets of 10, and 3 sets of 15. The heaviness of weights also depends on the amount of reps per set.

On most days, I end my workouts with a series of planks- front planks, side planks, reverse planks, and also include shoulder stands and full bridges. I also try to walk as much as possible to fit in as much movement throughout the day.

Soon, I am going to start studying to become a personal trainer because I think I have a unique background and the drive to help a lot of people. For me, exercise is energizing, fun, and stress-relieving. I like testing my body and proving how strong I am. It doesn’t always have to be this intense, depending on your preference. Please feel free to use some of these moves and incorporate segments into your own workout.

Hydrate Till You Glow

One thing I find I don’t frequently, if at all, talk about is what I drink. I drink a ton- of water that is. Another important facet of my weight loss and sustainability has been my habit of staying hydrated throughout the day. This seems easy peasy. We all need water to survive. It’s funny though how, if we don’t focus on it or make it a point to drink more water, we end up not drinking enough. People rely heavily on coffee to stay focus and energized, and believe me, I get it, but water helps a lot too, and you would probably feel a lot better if you drank more water.

Every day, even before breakfast, and we know I love breakfast, I have a large glass of water. I chug it down, whether my body feels up to it or not because it instantly makes me feel more awake. It’s like magic. Then I’ll move onto my warming cup of coffee. Coffee is another thing I have been working on. I do love it, but I’ve been trying to train myself to drink it black. I moved on long ago from any kind of sweetener (except for Iced Coffee where I still use half a sugar packet-ugh!) and only drink it with milk or cream. There was that awful realization that the creamer I was using had a ton of creepy, icky fake things inside so I quickly moved away from that and now use a dash of half and half whose only ingredients are milk and cream. Slowly but surely I’ll move away from even that.

After my water and coffee during breakfast, I’ll move onto another tall glass of water and a cup of tea. I do drink my tea completely black because I like the taste more that way. Tea is something I drink way more of in the cooler months because hot tea just doesn’t make me feel great when it’s hot and humid outside.

Throughout the day, I make a conscious decision to drink water on a consistent basis to the point where it’s not even conscious anymore. If my glass or water bottle empties, I fill it and drink some more. I am especially aware of how much water I drink on the days I run because not enough leaves me parched and tired, while too much makes me have to pee- having to pee while running makes running not fun.

One trick I’ve learned in drinking water is by infusing it with fruit. That ish is everywhere, first seen at my undergrad cafeteria. It’s another obvious, and these infusers are everywhere. It softens up the bland taste of water and makes it go down easier. I’ve never loved juice or any of the fancy waters they make sweetened. It always tasted false and full of product. With my more defined and healthier palate, I can’t drink any of that stuff at all.

To get that palate, I had to let go of something I never thought I would be able to- soda. Listen, diet soda was a fixture of my childhood and life, mostly because I spent a lot of time with my Nana and her sister and they were diabetic so they drank a ton of soda. I get it, we didn’t know how bad it was then, nor the importance of drinking it on the rare occasion. I was popping soda like I pop water now. NOT GOOD. I gave it up for Lent one year and I was literally having dreams about it. How sad is that? I was so addicted to that carbonate stuff that I barely functioned during those months.

When I was first getting serious about my weight loss, I knew that soda would have to go. It ended up being not as hard as I thought. My roommate and I made a joint goal to not drink it for a week, then pushed it to two. Then we decided we would give it up for Lent again, indulged in one more glass, and I haven’t drunken it since. There is the rare occasion that soda will find itself into a mixed drink, but I’ve found that I am put off by the taste and it makes me feel gross. Since going off the good stuff, I realized that I have more cravings and appreciation for naturally sweet things, like fruit and vegetables. That’s probably a combination of not engorging myself on fake products, being conscious of what I’m eating, and appreciating food more in general.

Sometimes, life can seem boring when you only drink water, coffee, and tea, especially when you are out to a restaurant. In these cases, if I’m ever feeling left out when one of my friends or family members orders a soda, I go for an unsweetened iced tea with lemon. The other downside is that I have to pee all the time. It’s never-ending and I have no shame.

Another drink I haven’t talked much about is alcohol. I do enjoy a glass of wine with dinner on the rare occasion, especially if we are having Italian, but even then I’d rather spend those calories on a cookie. I’m not much of a drinker and I don’t have to drink much to have fun. On holidays or special events, I’ll probably drink more wine than normal, but it doesn’t take much to leave me flushed. When I go out with friends, it can sometimes seem awkward if I don’t get much to drink, but again, I’d rather spend those extra calories on food, and also, it’s just expensive to go out, sheesh. I’m not against drinking, and I’ll indulge every so often, but when it comes down to it, I’m not that adventurous. I like wine and if there isn’t any good wine or if I’ve had my fill, I drink water. No apologies.

Now, excuse me. I am about to enjoy this large glass of beautiful water.

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